About 60 people spread out in the 280 seats at the Carver Community Center to hear what the four candidates for Anniston’s Ward 2 and Ward 4 council seats had to say about the issues and to choose their candidate.
“I’ve already made up the decision in my mind,” said Luther Ridgnal, a Ward 2 voter. “However, I wanted to find out if there was some additional things that would be said to solidify or make it concrete.”
The forum did exactly that for him and he’s now ready to cast his vote on Oct. 9, Ridgnal said.
Ward 2 candidates Sheffton Goodson and David Reddick, along with Ward 4 candidates Marcus Dunn and Millie Harris, are the biggest vote-getters from the Aug. 28 election. However, none of them received the 50 percent plus one vote required to win the election.
The four took questions posed by the audience for about an hour Thursday hoping to convince them once again that they were the best candidate for the job. Many of the questions were on issues discussed in the previous forums — crime, education, economic development. But there were a few new questions, including if the candidates supported Sunday alcohol sales or an open-container ordinance for an entertainment district. All four were in agreement on that: They would do whatever their constituents requested. How they would poll the constituents on that topic wasn’t addressed.
Some of the questions made quite clear the priorities of the residents at the forum.
“My wife and I proudly send our children to Anniston City Schools,” began one of the questions read by moderator Philip Tutor, commentary editor at The Anniston Star. “We have no desire to send them to any of the private schools in Anniston or any of the surrounding areas. It is greatly repulsive how this city has supported the children in the school system for the last several years. How can each of you convince me that you are genuinely concerned about supporting the Anniston City School system?”
All the candidates spoke of their support for the schools and listed their volunteer activities within the system.
Another question, how would the candidates promote joint ventures with the city of Oxford, drew a variety of answers from the candidates.
“If you want to do something right, find somebody doing it better than you, and right now Oxford is doing it better than us,” said Dunn, who is currently serving as appointed Ward 4 councilman. “Let’s go find out what Oxford is doing, because they are too close for us not to benefit from what they are doing.”
Harris, on the other hand, pointed out that Anniston needs to develop itself and its assets to make it attractive for other communities to work on joint ventures; Anniston’s airport for instance is located very near Oxford.
“We need to market our airport as a regional hub,” Harris said. “They need our cooperation. There are other ways that we can work together, to bring Oxford together, but we cannot force it.”
Reddick thought the day would come when Oxford would be knocking on Anniston’s door.
“You know, Oxford is on the verge of being landlocked, and we have plenty of land, plenty of property,” Reddick said. “What that means is we’ve got the opportunity to build some things that the only way they’re going to get a piece of the pie — and it’s not in a confrontrational way, but the only way they’ll get a piece of the pie — is if they partner with us on some things.”
Goodson said the communities need to come together again and realize that they both have something to offer to the relationship. He talked about the friendly rivalry that existed between the two cities’ high schools in the past.
“That’s one thing that brought these two cities together,” Goodson said. “We have some good ideas of our own, some great ideas. Oxford could learn a few things from Anniston. But, first of all, let’s bring our communities back together.”